Crosman Remington Model 1875 Part 1

Crosman Remington Model 1875 Part 1

The third gun of the American West and Frank James favorite

By Dennis Adler

Frank and Jesse James were well armed and carried a variety of guns including three popular makes of single action revolvers, a Third Model Merwin Hulbert Pocket Army with a 7-inch barrel and ivory grips, an S&W topbreak, both carried by Jesse, and at least two Remington Model 1875 revolvers favored by Frank. Jesse also used the .44-40 Remingtons as well as a Colt SAA. (Holsters by Jim Barnard/TrailRider Products)

Crosman Remington Model 1875 Part 2
Crosman Remington Model 1875 Part 3
Think of the Remington Model 1875 as the conclusion of a trilogy. In the great panorama of the American West there were many guns, but when it comes to revolvers, there were three that stood head and shoulders above the rest, Colt, Smith & Wesson, and Remington; three names that survive to this day. The Remington Model 1875 was literally the third great western cartridge revolver of the trio, though Remington was historically the oldest armsmaker in America. Unfortunately, E. Remington & Sons didn’t build its first revolver until 1857, 23 years after Samuel Colt’s first revolver, and the same time that S&W introduced America’s first cartridge-loading revolver. Remington had been in business since 1816 as a barrel maker, and never quite caught up with either Colt’s or S&W in the 1800s. Still, those who carried Remington revolvers from the late 1850s and throughout the Civil War remained loyal to the brand as the Ilion, New York armsmaker played catch-up to Colt and S&W. The Remington Model 1875 became their most famous large caliber cartridge revolver and remained in production until 1888, when it was replaced with the little remembered Model 1888 and then Model 1890, which only lasted until 1894, when Remington abandoned the revolver market. Although the Model 1890 sold only around 2,000 examples, the Model 1875 saw far greater success with nearly 40,000 manufactured, at least two of which were carried by outlaw Jesse James’ older brother Frank.

Among guns known to have been used by the James brothers was the Remington Model 1875, the first large caliber cartridge revolver produced by the Ilion, N.Y. armsmaker to compete directly with Colt and Smith & Wesson. When Frank James surrendered after the murder of Jesse, he handed over one of his two 1875 Remingtons. Frank James, in this 1898 portrait, lived until 1915 and passed away at age 72. One of his two Remington revolvers ended up in John Bianchi’s Frontier Museum in the early 1980s.

 Frank & Jesse

Frank and Jesse James had been on the losing side of the Civil War, but unlike many ex-Confederates who moved west after the South surrendered, Frank and Jesse stayed in Missouri. Many Southerners who had fought in The War Between the States headed West during Reconstruction (the period of reorganization of Southern States that took place from 1865 to 1877) to seek out a new life. Many became farmers, cattlemen, cowboys and ranchers, some successful businessmen, politicians, and lawmen, while others chose to live their lives on the other side of the law, Frank and Jesse were of the latter. By 1866 they had formed a band of ex-soldiers including Cole, Jim and John Younger (and later Bob Younger). The James-Younger gang was born out of the Civil War and history would make them immortal. But almost to a man they paid the price for that immortality; the one exception was Frank James.

The Crosman Remington Model 1875 revolvers are nickel plated and very accurate in their design and handling. The multi caliber models can fire either BB or pellet loaded cartridges from the smoothbore barrel. BB rounds are shown in the cartridge belt loops and pellet cartridges loaded into the guns. The dimensions of the CO2 models are very close with a 7-1/4 inch barrel length (1/4 inch shorter than the cartridge guns due in part to a smaller forcing cone at the back of the barrel). The internal .177 caliber barrel is recessed ½ inch for an overall length of 6-3/4 inches.

After almost a decade of robberies, escapes, close calls, the loss of a few riders, and a list of victims shot or killed during their heists, fame caught up with them on September 7, 1876 in Northfield, Minnesota. As history records, it was one of the most botched robberies ever. The James-Younger gang was so well known, as soon as they rode in and opened fire, rather than running for cover, the town’s people began arming themselves. Within minutes the James and Younger boys found themselves on the receiving end of an unequally-matched shootout. Three members of the gang were shot dead in the street and one of the Youngers yelled to Jesse, “Let’s get out of here, they’re killing us.” With little more than the cash from a teller’s drawer; Frank, Jesse, Cole, Jim and Bob Younger, and gunman Charlie Pitts barely escaped with their lives. Pitts was killed by the posse that gave chase and the Younger Brothers were so badly shot up during the robbery, they all but surrendered when cornered. Though wounded, Frank and Jesse miraculously escaped and hightailed it out of Minnesota into Dakota Territory. The Younger brothers pled guilty to robbery and murder. Bob died in prison, Jim and Cole spent the next quarter of a century behind bars. Six years later on April 3, 1882, Jesse was murdered by Bob Ford, one of his own men for the $10,000 reward placed on his head by Missouri Governor Thomas Crittendon. After Jesse’s death Frank surrendered himself, turning over one of his two 1875 Remingtons, the other was already gone. He stood trial and the jury found him not guilty. Frank spent most of the remainder of his life living quietly, with a year or so on the road at the turn of the century appearing in Wild West Shows, and briefly sharing the limelight with Cole Younger, who had been paroled in 1902. They spent a year going across America lecturing and performing in their own Wild West Show.

The Frank James exhibit at the Bianchi Frontier Museum had one of his Remingtons, left hand holster and a Colt Bisley that James used later in Wild West Shows. (Photo courtesy John Bianchi)

The second Remington Model 1875 owned by Frank James is the one shown in this article, and was at one time owned by famed holster maker John Bianchi, and was on display in his Frontier Museum (which later became the foundation for the Autry Museum in Los Angeles). As Bianchi told me when I was writing his biography in 2009, the Frank James gun came to him as a result of the L.A. Times article on his museum. “My secretary, Elsie, got a call and she knew what questions to ask, and she comes running in. ‘Boss, you’ve got to take this call!’ The man on the phone said he has one of Frank James’ Remington revolvers. He brings it in with the gun in a cardboard box, and in a towel is a Remington in an old Slim Jim holster with the cartridges still in the belt loops. He had all the documentation and it was one of Frank’s guns that he gave to a doctor that treated him after James agreed to surrender to the Governor of Missouri. Frank was sick and he wanted to be treated before he turned himself in. The doctor came to James and treated him privately until he recovered. He had no money so he gave the doctor his left-hand holster and gun. Many years later the doctor’s wife went to a Wild West Show where Frank James was appearing. After the show she got him to examine the gun and holster and write a note stipulating that it was his. He wrote it on the back of a cardboard cigarette box and she put it in the box with the gun. It went through three generations and the man who brought the gun to me was the grandson of the doctor.”

The Crosman Remington Model 1875 CO2 revolvers fit a variety of Western holsters, including this rig by TrailRider Products in a carving pattern similar to Frank James holsters.

This may well be the most famous Remington Model 1875 in the world and it serves as a reminder that the Old West never really died, it is a part of our history, our stories, and our heritage, the good, the bad, and the infamous. The Crosman Remington Model 1875 is another bold reminder, and takes its place alongside the Colt Peacemaker and S&W Schofield as one of the most famous single action revolvers ever designed, no matter what it is chambered to fire.

In Part 2 it is time to see how the new 1875 Remington CO2 model acquits itself against its famous Wild West counterparts, the Peacemaker and Schofield.


15 thoughts on “Crosman Remington Model 1875 Part 1”

    • I have often thought a larger caliber Single Action model would be great, but a 12 gr. CO2 cartridge can only push a heavier pellet so far. Even an 8.2 gr. 4.5mm rifle pellet loses a lot of velocity, (I have tried it) so a .22 caliber pellet would not work well at all.

      • Which guns have you tried? I have a couple of the old Crosman Peacemakers , with the co2 under the barrel. Not terribly gas efficient , get about 30 shots per co2. Haven’t run them through a Chrony , but they seem to hit pretty hard. My Crosman 600 semiauto gets close to 400 fps ,, and gets around the same number of shots. I wonder if a 22 Schofield or Peacemaker, maybe a Dragoon, could get a 22 pellet up to 375-400fps ,deliver 30 shots or so. With less shots and more efficient use of co2 than the older revolvers ,might work

        • I accidentally loaded 8.2 gr. Meisterkugeln rifle pellets into the 7-1/2 inch Colt pellet cartridges when I was doing a chrono test and wondered what the heck has happened to the velocity. Went to reload and saw I had picked up the wrong Meisterkugeln tin. With the cost of CO2, which is pretty inexpensive, I imagine a company could boost pressure to push a .22 wadcutter pellet down the barrel at a decent velocity but not sure how many folks would settle for four to five reloads before exhausting the CO2. It is an intriguing idea though. The 7-1/2 inch Peacemaker would be just the gun to try it on if Umarex wanted to up their game.

          • I think a fair number of shooters would go for less shots , more power .As stated co2 is still pretty cheap. I find that I I need to swap co2 cartridges out after maybe 50 shots when low strikes and bounce backs start happening . You get less shots when reloading hotter 38 spl loads than wadcutters , but I like practicing with full power loads , especially with defensive handguns . No problem. A long barrel Peacemaker or maybe a Webley MarkVI in 22 , pushing at 400 fps plus , would be a winner ,and may be possible

  1. Nice revolver . My only criticism, other than having to wait for one is the grips . They don’t look quite right and they should have screws to look like the actual revolver . They look a little more like black powder revolver grips

      • Here is something Crosman should do in addition to adding screws to the grips . Add or offer a nickel plated lanyard ring to cover the opening in the grips where the wrench tightens the tension screw , and it could also be used in lieu of a wrench , like the Webley Mark VI

          • Probably not .I see airgun companies making some of the same mistakes as firearms companies . Not going on blogs , consulting shooters and experts before marketing a product . I like the Remington , but would have polled shooters to see if they preferred a rifled barrel , smoothbore or both . Would have asked ” do you already own a Peacemaker revolver in 177? Would you buy the Remington if it does not use the same cartridges as the Peacemaker? What do you think of the prototype ?.Would you prefer the revolver to come in a period box ? Would you pay several dollars more for a box? What type of grips would you prefer? Little things like that.

  2. That sums it up. It is still a new era for Western airguns, more feedback and more consumer interest will no doubt bring about changes. This is almost as new to the manufacturers as it is to us! But I agree with everything you said. Small things that can make a big difference.

  3. I love the bigger grips on the Colt SAA Co2 and will purchase the Schofield in Nickel shortly ! They are making some wonderful old west firearms that are collector pieces as well as plain out fun !! Denis, love your reviews and input.

    • Glad you are enjoying the articles. Yes, the Army sized grips provide a better hold. The original .45 Colts had Navy sized grips but were also later offered with the larger Army-sized backstrap and grips. Be sure to check out the special engraved guns as well. They are limited to only 100 guns, so they really are collector pieces.

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